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UNGA Second Committee Considers Work of UN-Habitat

2 November 2010: On 2 November, the UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) began its consideration of the work of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), took up implementation of the outcome of the UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), and continued its consideration of sustainable development.

Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, introduced the Secretary-General's reports on implementation of the outcome of Habitat II and strengthening of the UN Human Settlements Programme (document A/65/316) and on coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/65/302). The first report concludes that, in light of emerging urban challenges, including rapid and chaotic urbanization, climate change, the global economic crisis, poverty and inequality, and the geographical expansion of cities into huge megalopolises, the convening of a Habitat III in 2016 would be timely. The report also provides that cities in developing countries, where the majority of the population will live after 2025, must learn how to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change while also meeting serious urban deficits in drinking water supply and sanitation.

Clos highlighted that, in May 2009, UN-Habitat launched the "Cities and Climate Change Initiative" in Uganda, Mozambique, Ecuador and the Philippines. He added that to remain internationally relevant, the Programme had to respond to emerging urban challenges and prioritize several areas, including: the promotion of the role of cities in climate change; and a focus on urban-based mitigation and adaptation in energy, as well as sustainable urban mobility and transport. Yemen, speaking on behalf of the G77 and China, noted that cities had an important role to play in addressing the climate change crisis and could provide leadership on mitigation and adaptation through inclusive urban planning and management.

The Committee resumed its discussion of sustainable development, with various countries and intergovernmental organizations making statements. On the climate negotiations, Ecuador underscored the absence of the necessary political will to combat climate change, emphasizing that the international community must cut emissions and underscoring the need for a post-Kyoto commitment period. He also called for political will for the implementation of the Bali Plan of Action in the context of shared but differentiated responsibilities. Gambia stressed that developed countries must show the political will to ensure the adoption of a legally binding agreement in Cancun. India underscored that it would push for an ambitious and equitable outcome under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol processes, and with Swaziland, stressed the importance of taking into account common but differentiated responsibilities. As a member of the Environmental Integrity Group, Liechtenstein indicated that it would continue to engage in the negotiations under the UNFCCC in seeking a legally binding climate change agreement after 2012. Democratic Republic of the Congo described Copenhagen as “a step in the right direction,” and with Algeria, called for a legally binding agreement in Cancun. Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Green Group, called on all countries to contribute to a successful outcome at the forthcoming Cancun Conference that would build on the Bali Action Plan. She expected the Cancun gathering to make an ambitious step towards a global, comprehensive and legally binding agreement to address climate change. Pakistan called for the following key decisions in Cancun: a permanent body at the UNFCCC to improve governance of climate finance; a new fund of US$50 billion; agreement on the level of emission reduction by developed countries; agreement on fast start finance; and the extension of the mandates of the two ad hoc working groups.

On finance, Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said it was essential to help developing countries through financial and technical aid, noting that developed countries had a historical responsibility to do that while taking practical measures to deal with the negative impact of climate change. Gambia underscored the need of developing countries for additional and predictable resources to support efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Underlining its need for national strategies to address climate change, the Dominican Republic called on donors to make good on their funding pledges. Malaysia underscored the importance of addressing the consequences of climate change through new, additional and sustainable financial resources, capacity-building and access to technology.

On technology transfer, India indicated that, jointly with Mexico, it had organized the Delhi Ministerial Dialogue with a view to developing, deploying and transferring environmentally sound technologies in agriculture, health, renewable energy, energy efficiency and other adaptation and mitigation areas of action to combat climate change. On energy and mitigation, Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Green Group , indicated the Group's commitment to developing clean, renewable and efficient energy to meet mounting needs, calling for good policies, sound technologies, mobilization of financial resources and efficient energy markets.

Stressing the need for the international community to take urgent measures to limit the growth of fossil fuels, Kazakhstan outlined domestic measures to ensure their reduction. The Democratic Republic of the Congo called for international solidarity in putting new, cleaner technologies in place to mitigate the effects of climate change. The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) described a "green industry initiative" and stated that the goals outlined in the report "Energy for a Sustainable Future," released by the Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, would be achieved only with commitment from national governments.

On forests, the Russian Federation called for a revision of the environmental work of the UN, particularly with regard to forests. He added that any decisions by the Committee must reflect the role of forests in ensuring sustainable development and combating climate change. The Democratic Republic of the Congo expressed its resolve to further its commitment to reducing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Calling for more North-South dialogue on the role of forests in combating climate changed, Cameroon said the REDD Plus mechanism should be implemented through partnerships entailing compensation for countries affected by deforestation.

A number of speakers also addressed issues related to water scarcity and desertification. Jordan stated that, with its semi-arid climate, scarcity of water resources and a large dependence on rainfall, her country was among the many severely affected by climate change. She added that, despite its low emission of GHGs, its ecosystem productivity and water resources are highly dependent on the hydrological cycle. Iran noted that dust and sandstorms are a major regional effect of climate change, underlining that any post-Kyoto agreements must take that issue into consideration. Iran added that insufficient financial resources, lack of institutional capacity and a lack of access to efficient, clean technologies are the major obstacles hindering developing countries from tackling desertification. Israel indicated that it will soon host the third international conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification. Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Green Group, underlined the need to accord more visibility to water issues, noting that climate change directly impacts the natural water cycle and availability of water resources, which are essential for socioeconomic development and preserving ecosystems. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that conservation agriculture could contribute significantly to climate change adaptation and mitigation, the diversification of production, reducing the use of inputs and managing water.

On disasters, Sri Lanka said that, according to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), developing countries would bear 75% to 80% of the costs of global climate change. He called for the early establishment of a climate fund to address climate-related disasters, such as the floods in Pakistan. Gambia noted that unprecedented incidents of flooding worldwide served as a gloomy reminder that climate change is a challenge of the present and future. Underlining the vulnerability to disasters and climate change of small island developing States (SIDS), Maldives called for finding an approach that addresses adaptation and disaster-risk reduction simultaneously. Malaysia highlighted three major factors impeding sustainable development: natural disasters resulting from climate change; the global economic crisis; and the prevalence of conflicts. Noting the increasing number and intensity of natural disasters, Mexico agreed on the importance of UN support for developing countries in implementing operational prevention and risk management frameworks. The Dominican Republic explained that its President had proposed that the UNGA establish an alliance of countries at risk to exchange experiences and share lessons learned as a way to help them minimize their vulnerability. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the Global Framework for Climate Services, when fully implemented, would lead to widespread social, economic and environmental benefits through more effective climate and disaster risk-management, as well as increased capabilities to adapt to climate change. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said gradual climate change and sudden natural disasters were exposing new risks and vulnerabilities; adding that many inhabitants of coastal regions, low lying islands, and areas susceptible to drought would be forced to move to safer areas. She called for launching a dialogue among member States on how to fill legal, operational and capacity gaps associated with climate change and human mobility, allocating sufficient additional funding to this issue. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies emphasized that the urban "risk divide" is expected to grow as climate change brings more severe disaster impacts on the world's most vulnerable locations.

A number of speakers addressed issues pertaining to SIDS. India said his country had contributed to the development efforts of SIDS in the spirit of South-South solidarity, helping them on capacity building, preparedness for natural disasters, adaptation to climate change and resilience enhancement. Zambia stressed the need for the international community to do more to help SIDS address the daunting challenges facing them, including climate change. Nigeria said climate change is a threat around the world, particularly to Africa and the small island States, where extreme weather conditions have "seriously diminished the hope" of combating hunger, diseases and poverty. Mexico recognized the high vulnerability of SIDS and supported an effective application of the Mauritius Strategy.

On governance and the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), Myanmar said unfulfilled commitments and a fragmented approach has created persistent gaps in poverty eradication and food security, as well as in efforts to reduce income inequality and combat climate change. He said the upcoming Rio+20 Conference would provide a timely opportunity to work together. Speaking in his national capacity, Morocco supported the UN Secretary-General's initiative to create a high-level panel to seek ways to eradicate poverty and combat climate change while securing energy security and the rational management of water resources. Serbia said the improved International Environmental Governance system should help mainstream climate change and ecosystem services into economic and social policy.  He emphasized that the "green economy" should embrace both the development and environmental agendas, and help create new jobs. Bangladesh listed three key imperatives for a successful outcome from the UNCSD, namely: depoliticizing climate change discourse; financing adaptation needs; and ensuring that the least developed countries (LDCs) and other vulnerable nations have access to eco-friendly and cost-effective technologies in the future climate change agreement.

Some speakers outlined national measures taken to address the climate change challenge. The United Arab Emirates said her country has taken major steps to reduce pollution, preserve ecosystems and promote a green approach in construction, transportation and waste management. Morocco outlined national efforts to achieve sustainable development, pointing to strategies for rural and human development as well as the country's transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy economy. Israel said her country has established a Centre for Sustainable Development Through International Environmental Cooperation, which seeks to help achieve the set goals of the Rio Conventions. [UN Press Release]